Samardzija, Cubs can’t catch break
CINCINNATI – Another well-pitched game ended in a close loss for the Cubs.
Jeff Samardzija (1-4) had his fourth consecutive loss since beating Pittsburgh on Opening Day when the Cubs lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 1-0, on Wednesday. The right-hander allowed seven hits and three walks with eight strikeouts and a wild pitch.
The hard-luck Samardzija had to battle through a cut on his right index finger but matched Mat Latos, his mound opponent, pitch-by-pitch until the sixth inning.
Shin-Soo Choo hit a bouncer through the mound that Samardzija tried to snag with his right hand. The play resulted in an infield single and a cut on Samardzjia’s index finger.
“I was keeping a close eye on him, but it was obvious it didn’t affect him. He pitched great,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Latos retired the first 10 batters and 15 of the first 16 he faced, and Todd Frazier hit a long home run to help the Reds complete a wacky, impressive, three-game series.
With one out in the sixth inning of a scoreless tie, Frazier blasted a 2-1 pitch 480 feet to straightaway center field to increase his team-leading home run total to six. The homer, which bounced high off the batter’s eye, is the longest at Great American Ball Park this season and the seventh-longest in the facility’s 11-year history.
“Frazier is a heck of a hitter,” Samardzija said. “It was a cutter that went over the plate. I’ve faced him since my freshman year a Notre Dame when he and his brother were at Rutgers.”
The finger was just a minor distraction.
“It was weird because of the blood, but it’s all right,” Samardzija said. “It is a baby cut.”
The Cubs’ pitching was outstanding in the series even though they dropped two out of three to the Reds.
“We were holding the best hitting team in the National League to a couple runs a game,” Sveum said of the Cubs’ 5-4 loss in 13 innings and the 4-2 win in 10 innings before this finale.
“That’s where it begins,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “The Cubs got great starting pitching, too. We were told they were getting great starting pitching.”
Latos (1-0), the victim of two blown saves in his first four starts this season allowed four hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
Jonathan Broxton replaced Latos with two runners on base and nobody out in the eighth. Both runners moved up on Cody Ransom’s sacrifice bunt, but pinch-hitter Alfonso Soriano struck out and shortstop Zack Cozart went deep behind second base to flag down David DeJesus’s grounder and throw him out to end the inning.
“That was an unbelievable play in that situation,” Sveum said. “Before that, DeJesus hit a foul that missed the line by less than a foot. That’s what happens when things aren’t going your way.”
Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth for his fourth save.
Latos’ effort left Cincinnati’s starting pitchers with a combined 5-0 record and 1.54 ERA on the homestand.
The Reds had baserunners in each of the first five innings, including the third, which Devin Mesoraco and Latos led off with singles before Samardzija struck out Shin-Soo Choo, Cozart and Joey Votto — the top three batters in Cincinnati’s lineup.
NOTES: A sharp one-hopper by Julio Borbon, the second batter in the game struck Latos’ right foot. He recovered to grab the ball and throw Borbon out and stayed in the game after a couple of practice tosses in front of manager Dusty Baker and trainer Paul Lessard. ... Choo, who went into the game leading the major leagues with a .535 on-base percentage, has reached base at least once in all 21 of the games he’s played this season.